In the post-Pinterest world it can be really, really hard to find original wedding ideas, even more so when the wedding you’re planning has a vintage theme. Overcoming the ‘seen before’ thing is virtually impossible! But creative duo Anne and Chris have well and truly pulled this one out of the bag. Their vintage inspired big day has delighted me from start to finish. The level of detail is unrivalled and despite an obvious ‘theme’ nothing feels contrived or staged. The pair treated guests to what can only be described as an extravaganza of experiences throughout the day, making the most of their brilliant venue, Shoreditch Studios.
Anne and Chris were always going to be one of our favourite couples as they found an online solace in RMW, when glossy bridal mags were making them feel queasy. We LOVE hearing things like this. And even more excitingly, Anne and Chris have opened their own wedding planning and prop sourcing business, so please do get in touch if you like what you see! I’m in awe of their ideas and how much heart and soul they poured into their wedding day. Please make sure you’re sitting comfortably for this one, as it’s well worth savouring…
Anne The Bride: Planning our wedding has got to be THE highlight of our five-year relationship. It even tops a three month stint in LA where our adventures included Porn Star Karaoke (seriously, it’s a thing. Ron Jeremy was there playing harmonica. Chris sang A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’). We sourced and made all of the props and décor ourselves and it’s proved to be far more exciting than simply a project for our wedding. In the months leading up the big day, friends and family started a spontaneous hashtag: #thebarnables (a combination of our surnames) and we’ve now launched our own company under the same name for event planning, design and prop hire.
The result was beyond anything we dreamed of – total cliché but true! We created a 1940s bar, magical banquet with 400 metres of festoon lights and topped things off with a thirties style music hall.
Planning Our Big Day
After the excitement of getting engaged died down a little, I found myself home alone one Friday night. I knew exactly what was required: Bridal mag, HUGE bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine. Thirty minutes in I’d got through the first forty-seven pages of adverts, a feature on the importance of matching table glitter to the bridesmaid’s shoes and an article on ‘so amazing you won’t want to eat them’ cakes (from four to twelve pounds per slice. Per slice!! And we had reasonable grounds to assume no-one would want to eat them!) From what I could make out, apparently we could have a unique, personal wedding of our dreams – as long as we bought into the year’s current trends and spent around fifty thousand pounds. Needless to say the chocolate and wine came in handy, but for completely different reasons.
I hit the internet and ‘Rock My Wedding’ came to the rescue. I spent several, very happy hours searching though the blog archives and was firmly convinced that we could, and would, have our wedding, our way.
Firstly, we needed to generate ideas so we created a chart of everything that makes us happy, both as individuals and as a couple, and that became the starting point for all of our decisions. What stood out above everything else was our love of real vintage. No offence to anyone who can’t wait to ragroll an old hostess trolley, but shabby chic and bunting just ain’t our bag. Given that our first date was also at Goodwood Revival, it was only natural that we would use a vintage theme for our overall look, specifically 1920s to 1950s.
Dress: ‘Journey’ by Enzoani and full length veil. Originally I was researching vintage bridal shops and had a short list which included shops in Eastbourne and Brighton. Our wise friend Heather then pointed out that if I needed alterations and more than one fitting, it would be better to choose somewhere closer to home. Linda at ‘Bride and Groom Kent Ltd’ is fabulous – she was almost as excited as I was!
Kay’s been cutting my hair for just over a year and I knew there was no-one else I wanted. She and her partner, Nicola, not only made me and my two bridesmaids look like princesses but also styled my mum’s and mother-in-law’s hair so they felt ultra special, too.
Chris wore a 1930s Benrus Art Deco watch (a present from his beautiful bride) and Goodwood Road Racing Club cufflinks (another present from his beautiful bride).
We’d researched venues across the country because the type of building was important, rather than the actual location. It needed to be a blank canvas and have elements of the industrial; we also needed a dry hire to enable us to realise all of our ideas. Initially, we thought we couldn’t afford London and were also put off by the number of venues who put restrictions on caterers, wine lists and the time we could be there. One venue (who shall remain nameless) wanted to charge ten thousand pounds just to allow us in the door between 1pm and 11pm – including set up and strike – before even discussing food, drink, staffing, lighting and sound. Eventually, again largely thanks to Rock My Wedding, we discovered Shoreditch Studios.
Crucially, Shoreditch Studios has two rooms. This meant that our guests would be in one for the ceremony, then the other for pre-meal drinks, back through for dinner and then back out again for the
evening festivities. We loved the idea of having the opportunity to surprise our guests not once, but several times! We ignored everyone’s advice and didn’t physically look anywhere else. We knew Shoreditch Studios fitted the bill perfectly. Dan, Andrew, Maree and the whole team were open to all of our ideas (even the crazy ones!) and were incredibly flexible and supportive.
Where to start? There was no specific colour scheme, but we love our secret bars (the kind you need a code or password to get into) and that definitely influenced the day. Our Save-the-Dates were film canisters containing the key details and we followed them up with invitations designed to look like top secret files. We were the ‘targets’ and guests were ‘operatives’. Guests were asked to attend ‘undercover’ in 1920s-50s attire. Instead of recommending hotels we suggested several ‘safehouses’. Everyone was also invited to a ‘Mission Debrief’ breakfast the following day.
Pre ceremony: We kept this as plain as possible – no décor, just plain tables and chairs. This threw our guests off kilter a little because, after all the effort we’d put into the invitations, they were expecting a showstopper.
Ceremony: Again, this was quite plain with nothing but the festoon lighting. It was a deliberate decision because we wanted the focus to be on the most important part of the day: us actually getting married!
Post-ceremony: Once the doors reopened the room had been transformed to look like a 1940s pub – complete with upright piano and Cockney sing-a-along. ‘The Cablemakers Arms’ was inspired by my maiden name and was a full scale version of a doll’s house my mum had made. We made a traditional pub sign and there were original copies of The Times and Radio Times from our wedding date in 1944. Wartime leaflets and posters were also included, along with original vintage lamps and various other props. We had bespoke beermats printed with a line drawing of the doll’s house, which Chris designed.
We even had the bar staff in flat caps and braces!
The meal: Possibly one of my favourite moments was seeing the tables set up for everyone. Rather than table numbers we named them after our favourite television programmes, films, books and bands, everything from Poirot, Gone With The Wind, The Beach Boys and The Who. Our florist had done an amazing job and we supplied the props ourselves (partly to keep costs down, partly because it was super fun to do). The Poirot centrepieces, for example, was a stack of Agatha Christie novels decorated with art-deco flowers and his trademark moustache. For Father Ted we had a large teacup and saucer as the vase, and it was surrounded by mini whiskey bottles and catchphrases from the series. For the favours, we took inspiration from ration packs issued to soldiers during WW1 and had bespoke tins printed – each one contained an alcohol miniature, a collapsible mini cup, two aspirin and a mint (plus instructions on how to signal to other guests with a napkin).
Evening: Once dinner and the speeches were done we went through for the first dance and the room had changed again – this time into ‘Spokes Music Hall’. Sadly Chris’s mum passed away and Spokes was
her maiden name; it was important to us that she was acknowledged on our special day. Chris made a neon sign and ‘we’ (Maree and her team) had changed all the pictures and props. Lamps had new shades,
different images were on the wall and this time the bar staff were in black tie. The piano had disappeared and was replaced with a swing band. Again, we had cocktail mats specially printed with the Spokes logo which again Chris designed. We felt a bit sad that the pub props were only used for a short time, so they were transferred to a ‘chill out’ area, where we created a 1940s secret agent office.
Sarah Carter, The Biggin Hill Florist, 144 Main Road, Biggin Hill, Westerham, TN16 3BA (no website) Aside from our AMAZING centrepieces, Sarah provided my bouquet (Ranunculus, anemone, lisianthus roses, English garden flowers, eucalyptus all in pastel colours), two posies for the bridesmaids
(smaller versions of the bridal bouquet) and buttonholes for immediate family, three best men and seven groomsmen. She also provided a David Bowie inspired buttonhole for Chris.
The Wedding Party
The bridesmaids, Abi and Kay, both wore 1920s inspired navy and silver flapper dresses from Rock My Vintage. My two besties couldn’t have looked more gorgeous! We wanted everyone to be comfortable, plus we knew it would be an expensive weekend, so we told the best men and groomsmen that there was no dress code. They scrubbed up perfectly with more than a nod to the vintage theme.
Chris wrote my entrance music, which was beautiful (even though a slight timing issue meant that the piece ended before I got to the top of the aisle. Gave everyone a giggle, though.) We had two readings. The first was ‘Hinterhof’ by James Fenton (the line ‘Heart never hoped that one might be/Half of the things you are to me’ had special resonance) which was given by oldest friend, Sharon.
The second was a rendition of Darwin’s Marry/Not Marry – a list of pros and cons that he wrote in his diary before deciding to get hitched. Ronnie and David, both actors and friends very close to our hearts, delivered it brilliantly; the registrar was particularly impressed! Our dads were our witnesses; by pure coincidence they’d bought the same suit so they’re looking very sharp in the photographs.
We’re incredibly lucky to know Kit, who leads this amazing band. We can’t thank them enough for travelling from Norwich to entertain us all – everyone commented on how great they were. Kit runs regular Swing nights in their home town so check them out if you can. Last but by no means least, big thanks to cousin Michael for DJing into the small hours.
All of our food was supplied by Sausage and Pear. They’re based in Dorset (if you’re ever down that way, a visit to their restaurant – The Station Kitchen – is a must! The dining room is an old rail carriage) but also provide catering for weddings and other special events. Guests were treated to canapés after the service before sitting down to a three course meal, banquet style (all tables and chairs were supplied by Rustic Hire consisting of:
Chorizo Scotch egg (v: asparagus with poached egg)
Chicken stuffed with camembert and wrapped in Parma ham (v:gorgonzola and chestnut ravioli)
Gypsy Tart (a Kent speciality and a nod to our home town)
In the evening, we went with burgers, hotdogs, bacon rolls and cheese toasties – just what we wanted after a few hours on the dance floor! Laurence and the team were fantastic – from battling winds (and
averting disaster when the catering tent nearly went into orbit), to providing amazing food to a party with numerous dietary requirements and, most importantly, ensuring my champagne glass was topped up all day!
We HEART Alline!! From our first internet call, we knew we didn’t want anyone else to capture the day. Alline totally bought in to what we were hoping to achieve and the results are just fantastic. Every time I look at the photos I want to do the whole day again. Even when I started freaking out in the final days beforehand, just one email from her was enough to get me back on track. She’s an incredibly creative, talented, fantabulous human.
Go with the personal touches – celebrate what makes you both unique as individuals and as a couple.
Don’t reveal everything to your guests beforehand. One of the best things about our wedding was seeing everyone’s reactions to what we’d put together. Keeping things secret also meant we avoided any stress caused by well-meaning friends and relatives saying things like “Oh, what you should do is…”. Use your contacts! Our friends, Paul and Natalie, run a pub so we got their advice in terms of stocking the bar and where to buy the alcohol – we saved LOADS! As well as being guests, they went above and beyond on the day saving the real ale and ‘gently’ guiding the (brilliant) bar staff away from free pouring spirits. They were definitely our unsung heroes of the day.
If, like us, you’re doing everything yourself: it all takes longer than you think! For example, I thought we’d spend a cosy afternoon making the invitations but it actually took around three full weekends! Finally, we love searching and hunting for that perfect prop, picture and company that will custom print several hundred beermats. Some of our best finds took months to track down. If you’re not really down with online auction sites and second hand antique shops, it will drive you crazy; check out www.thebarnables.com as chances are we can help.
Photography by Beatrici Photography
- Bride Vintage Dress via Bride & Groom Kent
- Make Up Steph Collins
- Hair Sharp & Owen
- Groom Brook Taverner
- Venue Shoreditch Studios
- Bridesmaids Rock My Vintage
- Piano Hire Markson Pianos
- Pianist Ross Power
- Band Bootleg Swing
- Catering Sausage & Pear
- Table & Chair Hire Rustic Hire
- Planning, Design & Decor Sourcing The Barnables